March 10, 2011

The Dietitian Speaks: Part 1

i love food and i love being a dietitian. strangely enough sometimes those worlds don't cross enough in the minds of my fellow professionals. when i see a blueberry, i see both a valuable antioxidant and the perfect ingredient for a scone. i have been so blessed to meet and work with a heaping handful of dietitians who fully agree that food is to be savored and enjoyed as much as used for energy and health.

i must admit that sometimes i do get wrapped up a little too much in the delight of food, as you'll likely see throughout future posts. but frequently i have to let the health professional in me step forward.

so here she goes...

i figured my first dietetic rant should be the obvious... what does gluten free mean?

gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye and barley. (yes, that means traditional breads, pastas, baked goods...) in some people, this protein can cause a spectrum of symptoms, ranging from mild headaches & fatigue to severe gastrointestinal illness. because this range is so broad, it can often times be difficult to diagnose. as far as we know, it seems there's even a spectrum of diagnoses for this issue.

celiac disease is a lifelong autoimmune disease. when someone with celiac disease ingests gluten, it causes a toxic reaction in the body, causing the body to attack its normal tissue, damaging the small intestine and preventing the absorption of nutrients. this disease can typically be diagnosed through either a blood antibody test or through a small intestine biopsy. unfortunately, these are not foolproof. 

gluten intolerance is a bit different. unlike celiac disease, there is no damage done to the intestine when wheat is ingested, therefore not causing any nutritional deficiency. there are similar gastrointestinal symptoms, but no potential for long-term damage seen with untreated celiac disease.

the diet prescription for both of these issues is the same... do not eat gluten. 

celiac disease and gluten intolerance have gotten some much needed attention over the past several years. and some ever-improving gluten-free products have been popping up on grocery shelves too.

i think we will see more and more people over the following years realizing that gluten has been the cause for their gut issues. if you experience chronic constipation, diarrhea, bloating, cramping, migraines, infertility or autism talk to your doctor about gluten. especially if you or family members have other autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or thyroid disease. or at least check out this site or this site to get more information.

and if it turns out gluten and your body are not friends, don't lose hope. it's not so bad. your health is really just starting. and so worth it. there are plenty of deliciously fabulous things to eat, both homemade and off the shelf. i promise.
and i'll do the best i can to pass on suggestions for both!

**disclaimer: this site is not intended for use in diagnosis, treatment, or any other medical application. questions should be directed to your personal physician.

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